AFAP manages the Australian-Pacific Centre for Emergency and Disaster Information (APCEDI) to provide news on natural disaster events in the Asia-Pacific region and to help with rapid disaster response assessment. This was originally a communications network that was activated during a disaster to disseminate information to our Asia-Pacific NGO offices. Now APCEDI has a much wider application across the Asia-Pacific Region.

Monday, January 05, 2004

APCEDI Alert 07P, Cyclone Heta #6, 2004

Dear Colleagues

Alert #6 / 05 January 2004, Sydney 19:00 EDT

Cyclone Heta continues as a dangerous Category 4 storm, and there is now the official prediction that it will peak as a Category 5 Super Cyclone within 50-100km of the Tongan Island of Niuatoputapu. So the situation in growing increasingly grave over the next 24 hours for Samoa, Tonga and Niue. Moderate to locally severe damage is being reported from Wallis, Savai’i and Upolu as the first reports start to come in. The following will be a country by country assessment.

Tokelau: Outer rain and wind bands still affecting the 3 island groups, and the ocean continues very rough. Damage is minimal and little further damage is expected as the storm is now quite distant and moving away.

Wallis and Futuna: Power is out throughout most of the Wallis Group although phones are reported to be working in the main areas of Uvea. Widespread moderate damage to crops, coastal flooding of low lying areas and damage to boats and marina on Uvea. No reports of loss of life or injuries. The storm is moving away but Wallis can still expect another 6-12 hours of damaging gales, heavy gain and very rough seas. Futuna and Alofi continue in the outer bands of the storm but damage is minimal and little further damage is expected as the storm is moving away.

Samoa (including America Samoa): The first reports are coming from the NDMO through Ms Dawn Paleso'o, the AFAP/FSPI Disaster Manager. She is reporting significant flooding of low-lying coastal zones in the Apia area as there is a strong tidal surge on the northern coasts of Savai’i and Upolu from the southern-moving storm and high tide has just past this afternoon. As the storm rounds to the south, this tidal surge will also build on west-facing coastal areas. The storm surge has crested above the seawall at Apia and spread debris across most coastal roads. Landslides due to rain and coastal flood surge have already blocked the Eastern Coast Road. She is reporting that communications with Savai’i are difficult. Recent reports have reported most of the power out in Savai’i as well as some phone lines. Given the moderate to serious damage in Upolu from the tidal surge, it can only be estimated to be worse on the northern coast of Savai’i. Tutuila is American Samoa is also reporting some tidal surge damage. The storm is currently 130 kms southwest of Savai’i, but much of the western part of the island has disappeared on the satellite under the outer bands of the inner portion of the cyclone. Given the increasing size of Heta and its continued slow movement, moderate to locally severe damage from wind, storm surge and flash flooding can be expected throughout northern and western areas of the island. Code Red Alerts which are the highest level remain posted on both islands. Damaging winds, storm surges and rains will likely continue for the next 24 hours. No injuries or loss of life has been reported.

Tonga: Initially it looked like Tonga may escape without much damage, but with the increase in size and subtle shifts in direction, the Niua Group will very likely receive a direct hit tonight particularly the islands of Tafahi and Niuatoputapu. With over 2000 people mostly living on Niuatoputapu, these two islands now lie in the direct path of what may eventuate as a Category 5 Super-Cyclone. These two islands will likely bear the full force of the storm and could receive severe to locally catastrophic damage. A great deal will depend on the strength and forward speed of the storm. Warnings have already been up for 48 hours, and residents will have made many preparations. However, the cyclone has grown very strong, very quickly, and residents have no faced such a major threat for over a decade. The western-most island in the Niua’s, Niuafo’ou lies considerably further west and thus should escape the full brunt of the storm, but moderate to locally severe damage could still occur here. Farther to the south, the Vava’u Group should get gales and squalls, but damage on the current track should be minimal to locally moderate.

Niue: On its current predicted course, Niue is still in position to receive a direct hit from Heta possibly at Category 4-5 by tomorrow night, and this could result in severe to locally catastrophic damage throughout the island. Cyclone Warnings have been raised and preparations are now underway. New Zealand officials are monitoring the storm closely and will take measures in the next few days should the threat increase to Niue.

More detailed information about the storm can be found on

Kevin Vang
APCEDI Coordinator

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